[Tweeters] SAS Nisqually NWR Field Trip Tuesday March 13th, 2012.

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Tue Mar 13 18:02:16 PDT 2012

Hello Tweets,

Eleven of us were rewarded with a three American Bittern and two Great
Horned Owl day as we braved the snowy conditions, occasional breaks of sun,
and temperature around 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the Refuge. There was a
High 13'10" Tide at 9:27am so there was lots of water and Greater
Yellowlegs and waterfowl were pushed in close to the Nisqually Estuary
(dike) Trail.

Starting out at the Visitor Center Pond Overlook at 8am, we had two
American Bitterns fly into the cat tails on either side of the observation
platform for beautiful views. Both birds hunkered down and were soon
covered in a layer of snow. A gorgeous male Wood Duck, FOY, made an
appearance and Hooded Mergansers were observed breeding. We also saw
Canada Goose, Mallard, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Flicker, American Robin,
Black-capped Chickadee, Song Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird.

As we traveled across the parking lot southwest, approximately 800 Cackling
Geese flushed from the fields south of the Twin Barns and flew south into
the Nisqually Valley. The flooded fields south and west of the Access Road
had moderate numbers of Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail with the
occasional pair of Hooded Merganser and small groups of female Bufflehead.
Golden-crowned Sparrow were seen in the shrubs between the parking lot and
the access road. Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper were seen in the
strip of short mixed coniferous and deciduous trees between the fields west
and south.

On the western side of the Twin Barns Loop Trail we observed Pied-billed
Grebe and Ring-necked Duck in the pond. While looking for the Great Horned
Owls near the nest tree, we saw a Marsh Wren and Downy Woodpecker while a
third American Bittern flew through and a Peregrine Falcon landed in the
top of a Cottonwood Tree within the boardwalk loop.

At the Twin Barns Observation Platform we had one of many looks of at at
least two Northern Harriers. Additional observation of waterfowl,
sparrows, White-crowned Sparrow and American x Northwestern Crow Hybrids.
Many immature and adult Bald Eagles were observed through out the walk,
approximately 10-15 eagles were seen.

On the Nisqually Estuary (Dike) Trail we were treated to a singing Western
Meadowlark and close observation of a Eurasian Wigeon. There were good
numbers of American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal. A group of 10 plus
Greater Yellowlegs were seen flying around the surge plain. Upwards of 50
Violet-green Swallows with a few Tree Swallows were observed flying over
the surge plain and eventually roosted in a snag along the Nisqually River.
We had a great opportunity to compare Mew Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls
roosting. The lighter gray mantle and discrete scapular crescent of the
Ring-billed Gull were reliable field marks in comparison to the darker gray
mantle and more prominent scapular crescent of the Mew Gulls.

The weather conditions worsened between the Observation Tower and the
McAllister Creek Viewing Platform along the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk
Trail. We observed Great Blue Heron, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common
Goldeneye and Belted Kingfisher. A pair of adult Bald Eagles were in the
southern nest tree, a topped Douglass Fir on the west side of McAllister
Creek south of the McAllister Creek Viewing Platform. The nest is on the
north side of the tree about 10 to 15 feet below the broken top of the
tree, and an adult Bald Eagle was sitting on the nest. I believe the pair
of eagles are incubating eggs. Unfortunately we could not see the Great
Egret which has been seen weekly on Phil Kelley's Wednesday morning walk.

In in the area around the Nisqually River Overlook, we had another FOY with
the fly by of a Rufous Hummingbird. More rewarding were very nice looks of
Yellow-rumped Warblers, Audubon's variety. We also saw Common Merganser,
Double-crested Cormorant, Dark-eyed Junco, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Song
Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Bewick's Wren and Pacific Wren. Many of the
Violet-green Swallows were leaving their roost and flying south along the
Nisqually River.

On the Old Nisqually River Dike, just south of the cut-off for the
Boardwalk Loop Trail towards the Twin Barns, we had great looks at a male
and female pair of Pileated Woodpeckers working a snag outside the dike
adjacent to a Wood Duck nest box. Additional Pacific Wren and Ruby-crowned
Kinglet were heard and seen. With great relief, we found an adult Great
Horned Owl and owlet within the Boardwalk Loop Trail on the north side of a
small riparian tree stand that is directly south of the large riparian tree
stand where the nest tree is located. The owlets have their primary flight
feathers and are able to fly. The owlets have been observed over the last
4-5 weeks and were probably born the end of January or beginning of
February. It's really remarkable how early Great Horned Owls nest and how
quickly the owlets fledge.

We had 57 species for the day, with two FOY for me and a total of 105
species seen on the Refuge for the year. Mammals seen were Harbor Seal. I
would like to thank the terrific birders in my trip for their excellent
spotting and good attitude with a stormy spring day at the Refuge.

Until next time, good birding!

Shep Thorp
Browns Point
sthorp at theaec.com
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